In the closing months of the Second World War in Europe, T Force was assigned the task of securing enemy military, scientific and industrial sites of interest to Allied intelligence. The following history written by the T Force teams after the end of hostilities documents these attempts at capturing the Germany's technological secrets.
HISTORY OF 'T' FORCE ACTIVITIES IN 21 ARMY GROUP
- History of 'T' Force Activities in 21 Army Group
- Appendix 'A' - Staff Organisation and Order of Battle
- Appendix 'B' - Chief of Staff, HQ 21 Army Group Policy letter on Securing of Special Targets by 'T' Force
- Appendix 'C' - 'T' Force pass and special authority for 'T' Force guards
- Appendix 'D' - Details of CIOS Groups
- Appendix 'E' - 'T' Force activities in Second British Army
- Appendix 'F' - Story of First Canadian Army 'T' Force
- Appendix 'G' - Activities of reconnaissance platoon of 5 KINGS during the closing days of the campaign
- Appendix 'H' - A diary of 'T' Force operations in KIEL
COMMENTS ON 'T' FORCE ACTIVITIES IN SECOND BRITISH ARMY
'T' Force activities in GERMANY provided one of those very rare instances of a military or a semi- military operation going almost exactly as had been anticipated. After the seemingly almost interminable discussions on methods to be employed, which took place in the winter of 1944-45 in BRUSSELS, PARIS and LONDON, almost all parties concerned had finally agreed that the method employed in 21 Army Group was the practicable method least likely to fail completely. In fact it worked far better than anyone had dared to hope.
In the first place the campaign itself went sufficiently fast to avoid boredom on the part of 'T' Force and everyone concerned, and yet sufficiently slowly to allow target areas to be taken on and exploited in sequence.
The German race also obliged by refraining almost completely from using booby traps and from carrying out acts of sabotage in their own country. As had been anticipated the principal damage was done by displaced persons in various states of inebriation, with our own troops running a bad second.
No comprehensive programme of document destruction by the Germans was apparent until the fall of HANNOVER, after which all important documents were normally destroyed before the target was captured. The effect of this destruction, however, was to a large extent nullified by the whole-hearted co-operation of German directors and scientists and by the skill of interrogators.
Bomb damage on targets in industrial areas, though very considerable had not destroyed as many targets as was expected, but a large number of sites were completely wrecked.
'Opportunity' targets were frequently extremely valuable and were tackled quickly whenever they were reported.
Close liaison with military government was found to be extremely profitable by both parties. All fighting formations were extremely co-operative particularly when they realised the advantage of having special forces to guard VPs and other installations which they would otherwise have had to guard themselves. They were even impressed on one or two occasions, so they said, by the speed with which scientists were brought into the area to investigate targets. In all cases targets were occupied by 'T' Force troops within twenty four hours of their capture, and normally within six hours.
Finally, perhaps the most valuable people of all were the target assessors who, in spite of a hasty summons, an obscure charter and a continual shortage of transport, contrived to cover all the targets on the list and a large number of others as well in a very short time. Their advice was, at all times, of the very greatest value to the 'T' Force Commander and his staff.
The detailed analysis of targets and the summaries of targets guarded are already available in the reports of assessors and investigators. The following statements, therefore, are more in the nature of a general account with comments on the 'T' Force operations which accompanied the final campaign of Second Army. This 'T' Force, which consisted of 5 KINGS, two companies of 1 BUCKS and 805, 806, 845 and 846 Pioneer Smoke Coys and 19 Bomb Disposal Coy, was assembled in extreme haste when it became evident towards the end of March that the break-out from the RHINE bridgehead was not going to take the customary fourteen days to materialise. 5 KINGS were fresh from the DUNKIRK perimeter, and the smoke coys from the RHINE. The Bomb Disposal Coy had been demolishing concrete structures in the PAS DE CALAIS and the GSO2 had just spent one day on a course in ENGLAND.
On 30 March, the whole outfit abruptly came under command Second Army whose advance over the RHINE had just started in real earnest. Two Smoke coys were to be picked up after crossing the RHINE, and the remainder of the Force was moved up to MAASBREE on 31 March. One coy was at once moved over the RHINE to GESCHER on 1 April and was there joined by two of the smoke coys who had been engaged in producing the RHINE smokescreen.
Another coy was despatched to 43 Division for targets in HENGELO in HOLLAND, and the third to 12 Corps for targets in RHEINE.
These three target areas were of medium importance and as such were most valuable to all concerned as a first try-out in the securing and exploiting of targets. It at once became evident that as soon as administrative difficulties such as transport and feeding and movement had been overcome, the task was vastly easier than had been anticipated, and contained none of the mystery which some would have had us believe. Willing informants and guides could invariably be found on targets, the forward troops were as cooperative and as interested as they could possibly be, and the Germans themselves were far too frightened to do anything except run away if they could, and give all the help in their power if they couldn't.
While Head Quarters was at GESCHER, the first batch of assessors arrived. They were in a pitiable condition, having been directed to drive from BRUSSELS to GESCHER in one day - a feat requiring considerable endurance. They finally arrived in small bedraggled batches between the hours of 0200 and 0630, and were revived with hot tea and good advice by the Commanding Officer and Adjutant. This was followed up the next day by some quick lessons in map-reading from the Intelligence Officer.
Considering that it took most of us a good six months at the beginning of the war to get used to the Army, it was very surprising how soon most of the assessors grasped the form in 'T' Force. Although no form of rehearsal of 'T' Force activities in the field had ever been carried out, an extremely efficient impromptu intelligence and briefing organisation was immediately set up, one of the main objects of which was to prevent valuable technicians from driving down roads which had not yet been cleared of the enemy. It is a great tribute to this organisation that in only one instance were assessors nearly lost in ambush during a time when a number of more experienced staff officers were lost in this way. The Intelligence Section was also responsible for keeping detailed up-to-date information on all targets, a laborious and very large task, which it carried out magnificently.
At this opening stage of the proceedings the 'T' Force set up was as follows:
The headquarters was a normal battalion headquarters though its functions were anything but normal. Its coys were already spread over a very wide area under the command of three different corps and it had, in addition, three smoke coys and a bomb disposal coy under command. Communications were by 19 set, when extreme ranges could be obtained, and otherwise by liaison officers in reconnaissance cars or by despatch rider. A high powered link for communication with Army Headquarters was also provided. In addition to this very large number of troops to command, the headquarters had to cope with a floating population of from forty to ninety officers, both American and British, belonging to Navy, Army and Air Force, many of whom had never been in the field before, and none of whom were known to the battalion headquarters until they arrived.
These officers were all authorities on a bewildering variety of different subjects. To feed them a separate mess was soon established where they could feed at almost any hour of the day or night and discuss with each other, to their hearts content, their various technicalities without disrupting the working of the battalion headquarters.
The headquarters of 806 Smoke Coy was made into an administrative headquarters whose main function was the running of the transport of the Force and the provision of transport for the assessors and investigators. As all of these officers inevitably wished to go to different places at different times on different days, and some of them had rather luxurious standards in the matter of vehicles, this was no easy task, and has remained to this day one of the most difficult problems to be faced.
Contact with the outside world was kept mainly by the GSO2 who began by living at Army Headquarters and visiting 'T' Force daily, but very soon took to living at 'T' Force headquarters and visiting Army almost daily, as it became evident that he could do far more useful work with the people who were actually doing the job than by sitting in an office and writing long messages and orders to a battalion headquarters who were already grossly overworked and over-worried.
When a target area was about to be taken, the GSO2 visited the corps concerned and arranged for the necessary 'T' Force troops to come under command of the appropriate division, and, in the first few days, personally introduced the coy commander to the corps staff. In the case of important targets he handed over a dossier and maps of the targets to the corps staff which were then passed on to the forward troops who would guard the target until it was taken over by 'T' Force. As soon as corps had got accustomed to the idea of 'T' Force this became unnecessary, and the coy or detachment commander merely reported to the corps concerned and told them his job, and was then fitted into the corps plan. When the 'T' Force troops had taken over the targets, battalion headquarters was immediately informed of the situation in the area and despatched assessors to the targets as soon as it was considered safe for them to go there. These same assessors in their turn informed 21 Army Group what further investigators were needed, after they had made a preliminary survey of the target in question. All detachment commanders kept close touch with Military Government detachments in the areas in which they were operating, and this proved invaluable to both sides, Mil Gov frequently producing targets for 'T' Force, and 'T' Force giving considerable assistance to Mil Gov in the difficult opening stages of the occupation of a town. Close touch was also kept with War Material Reconnaissance Teams with considerable mutual benefit. The same rifle coy with varying troops under command was kept in the same corps area throughout the operation and this kept the continuity of relations of 'T' Force with the fighting troops.
The Pioneer Smoke Coys adapted themselves to their new and completely strange duties extremely well, though with varying degrees of competence none of which ever came near to incompetence.
Once established in an area, coy commanders made it their business to locate any "opportunity" targets and to keep contact with other troops in the same area for this same purpose. In this way such targets as the GROTH laboratory, skilfully hidden in a silk factory at CELLE, and several other less spectacular but important targets were discovered soon enough to be put under guard before they were looted or before the key personnel had time to disappear. Large quantities of equipment for evacuation soon began to appear around battalion headquarters and this necessitated setting up an Evacuation Intelligence Section which crated, labelled and despatched this equipment. An extraordinary variety of dials, tubes, boxes and pieces of metal of all shapes and sizes were our constant companions throughout the campaign in GERMANY. It is estimated that nearly 1,000 tons of equipment have already been evacuated in this way.
The Documents Team of one officer and seven other ranks was centralised at battalion headquarters and distributed to targets as required. It covered an immense amount of ground and its principal function was to determine the value of documents and to evacuate any of operational significance to the military formations concerned.
The small staff of interpreters were in great demand, and we could have used four times the number if they had been available, since the most valuable results were invariably attained not by searches into documents and machinery, but by the interrogation of German personnel found in the targets. Virtually no benefit, except a certain exhilaration, was derived from the information supplied by displaced personnel, whose destructive capacity was immense, and whose fevered imaginations produced theories of a remarkable inaccuracy.
In the early stages of the campaign we had with us a detachment of 30 Advanced Unit RN, whose interests, though fleeting, frequently coincided with our own. Later on they became impatient with the pace of 'T' Force activities and became increasingly advanced and dispersed until in KIEL they virtually disappeared from view altogether! This made them stimulating but somewhat uneasy companions, and their exact relationship to our own naval investigators was always somewhat of a mystery. Their predilection for small armoured sorties in front of the main advance showed admirable daring but was sometimes a little difficult to fit in to the general plan of 'T' Force activities.
From GESCHER the Headquarters moved to OSNABRUCK and the two coys of 1 BUCKS were despatched to HANNOVER, which was captured by the Ninth US Army. They secured in HANNOVER the best General Staff Intelligence target in the programme in almost complete working order - the Headquarters of Wehrkreis XI.
HANNOVER was at this time populated almost exclusively by displaced persons in the throes of perhaps the biggest blind in EUROPE, during which they finished the contents of one of GERMANY's biggest and most famous cellars in the space of three Hogarthian days.
At the same time a coy was despatched to CELLE and detachments to the explosives factories at LIEBENAU and BOMLITZ. At CELLE the Gas School and a small but particularly nauseating gaol were the main listed targets, but the most important was the small physics laboratory of Dr. GROTH, mentioned above, which was discovered by accident by the DDME of 8 Corps and instantly reported to the 'T' Force detachment commander who took it over without delay.
By this time our resources were very fully extended, and the lull that now took place in the military operations while Belsen Camp was taken over by 8 Corps, while preparations for a 'set piece' attack on BREMEN were made by 12 Corps, and while 30 Corps were held up by strong resistance on the left flank, was a very welcome one. It gave us time to consider in the light of the experience gained so far what were the most important targets to go for and what was the best procedure for dealing with them. For instance, it was now clear that most Military Government targets in the list would automatically be preserved by the Germans anyway, that industrial targets depended to a great extent for their value on the seizing of key personnel in them, and that 'opportunity' targets were likely to be the most important of the lot.
This lull also gave us time to bring up a proportion of the troops from RHEINE and OSNABRUCK and to sort out the targets under guard so that enough troops were available for the main target areas which were about to be captured - BREMEN, HAMBURG, LUBECK And KIEL. At this time the coy at CELLE sent out detachments to secure the two targets which were greatest in extent and the investigation of which has lasted longer than any other: the Chemical Warfare Station at RAUBKAMMER and the vast Ordnance Testing Station at MUNSTER UNTERLUSS. The military situation at these two places remained interesting for some days owing to the presence of large numbers of disaffected SS in the surrounding forests. They ambushed vehicles, winning one of our all too scarce investigators' staff cars, from which the investigators beat a hasty retreat, and also kidnapped some of the technical personnel from RAUBKAMMER and hid them in the forest.
BREMEN was our most ambitious target yet and was complicated because it is situated on two sides of a main water obstacle and was to be taken by separate assaults from EAST and WEST. Separate 'T' Forces were attached to both of the forces assaulting BREMEN and were in possession of the targets in record time. Throughout the operation the most important target in BREMEN was the DESCHIMAG U-boat assembly yard where sixteen U-boats were in the course of construction, two of which were almost complete at the time of capture. The targets in BREMEN were thinned out very rapidly so as to economise troops for the next advance forward, and so as to clear the area of British troops as soon as possible in view of the American take-over of the port.
'T' Force headquarters stayed in SULINGEN between NIENBURG and DIEPHOLZ from April 12 to 24, and then moved into the Wolff factory at BOMLITZ, where it could better control possible developments towards HAMBURG, CUXHAVEN and in BREMEN, and, at the same time live in considerable comfort in the palatial offices and hostels of Germany's leading propellant factory. Throughout these moves the headquarters was always sited within easy distance of Headquarters Second Army, and on the telephone to them.
Minor targets were dealt with in LUNEBERG and preparations were made for the forthcoming crossing of the ELBE, the capture of HAMBURG and the final canter home to KIEL via LUBECK. At the same time one of the coys of 1 BUCKS was taken out of HANNOVER and directed on to the targets in the peninsula between the ELBE and the WESER, WESERMUNDER, BREMENHAFEN, CUXHAVEN and STADE, and the other BUCKS coy followed them up in a few days.
At the beginning of May it became evident that the battle was virtually over. The advance over the ELBE met with little opposition and was contained only by the multitudes of prisoners on the roads, and on 2 May HAMBURG itself surrendered.
The three coys which went into HAMBURG were hard put to it to cope with the 106 listed targets in that city, but the most important were immediately secured including the radio station, which broadcast on the same night, and the laboratory of Dr. HARTECK, the associate of Dr. GROTH.
Simultaneously a coy arrived in LUBECK and a party of recce cars was sent on to TRAVEMUNDE on the BALTIC, where the LUFTWAFFE received the party with great ceremony, most lavish generosity and evident relief at the absence of the Russians.
In LUBECK, the most important target was the great DWM works, the investigation of which by Ordnance experts still continues, and the most_ remarkable 'Opportunity' target was a mobile transmitting station comprising twenty-six gigantic vehicles and worth several million pounds, whose director sought 'T' Force protection on the grounds that his equipment was about to be looted by the demoralised German Army. He had, he said, been standing by for an emergency since the Spanish Civil War, in which his station had been tested, and evidently felt that he had missed his cue.
By 5 May the diplomatic situation had become extremely obscure and a rather hazy standstill order was in force. The Coy at LUBECK rapidly handed over its responsibilities to 5 Division and prepared itself, with another coy rapidly brought up from BREMEN, to proceed to KIEL. 30 Advanced Unit RN were also straining at the leash to move on and secure the secrets of the German Navy before they could be destroyed or evacuated.
On the night 4/5 May, after a series of obscure and misunderstood telephone conversations between the GSO2 of the KIEL 'T' Force and 21 Army Group and Second Army, the force advanced to KIEL under the illusion that it had been ordered to go there with all speed, and to the justifiable annoyance of Headquarters 8 Corps, who were still maintaining a standstill, when they found out.
When 'T' Force arrived in KIEL, the situation was somewhat Gilbertian. The garrison consisted of some 12,000 fully armed Germans, one cruiser in dry dock and one upside down in the harbour, and a number of U-boats and smaller craft, and some 40,000 extremely rampageous displaced persons.
The German naval commander was at first inclined to be sceptical as to the opinion of the 'T' Force Commander, backed by 200 men, that the German nation had surrendered, but a brisk telephone conversation with Admiral DOENITZ then at FLENSBURG, confirmed this opinion and both sides then set about producing an orderly situation in the port which was almost completely shattered by Allied bombing. The entire functions of garrisoning and military government devolved on these two coys until other troops arrived on 8 May. Many of these functions were then taken over, and an Army Form B108 was received for the cruiser "HIPPER".
The most valuable target in KIEL was the WALTHERWERKE, complete with Herr WALTHER. Although this character had been engaged in burning his documents for the past four days and had completed his task on the afternoon before the arrival of the troops, it subsequently transpired, when Herr WALTHER was convinced the Nazi Party was a thing of the past, that he had taken the precaution of micro-filming the most important documents, and that the prototype of his most important production, a jet-propelled submarine capable of 25 knots under water, was still intact in the works. This was taken care of by 30 Advanced Unit RN.
This episode was really the end of the listed programme for Second Army 'T' Force, and in GERMANY it now remained to tidy up targets still under guard and to carry out a more detailed search for further targets.
The target list for DENMARK was now produced and this provided a welcome change from the boredom of guard duties in GERMANY. As soon as the SHAEF Mission to DENMARK had established itself in COPENHAGEN, one coy of 5 KINGS and a composite coy representing all the units of 'T' Force, were despatched, one coy to AARHUS and one to KOLDING, both in JUTLAND, with an attached platoon from the second coy in COPENHAGEN. A tremendous and stupefying welcome was, and still is, being extended to these fortunate detachments, and full results of the investigations in DENMARK are still awaited. Among other targets, a V2 experimental station on the island of FANO was investigated with the aid of a DUKW.
It seems improbable that any operations, remotely similar to those described above are likely to take place at any future stage of this war, and it is hoped that the opportunity for such operations will not arise at any future stage in history, so that a summary of lessons learnt may seen to be irrelevant.
The first intention of these operations was to unearth the secrets behind GERMANY's war effort and to discover how much of their technical achievement had been handed over to the Japanese. It is impossible for me to say how far this intention has been realised, and without doubt it will take many months of research into the documents and equipment evacuated to decide exactly how valuable these operations have been. It is certain that a remarkable amount of material has been moved about EUROPE by this organisation and that a very wide field of subjects has been covered in considerable detail by the investigators themselves.
In view of the considerable haste with which this force was put together for an unusual task and of the vastness of the area which had to be covered in a very short time, it is remarkable that even a small degree of satisfaction with the performance has been expressed by the authorities for whom it was carried out.
Any success that may have been achieved has been due to four main things:-
To the industry and resourcefulness of the Headquarters of 5 KINGS and to their endless good temper in dealing with a multitude of curious problems and curious people;
To the very great initiative shown by all the officers of 'T' Force;
To the skill and hard work of the assessors, and to the high standard of intelligence material produced before and during the operations; and
To the staff work of 21 Army Group and SHAEF.
It is hoped that all the energy and skill expended by so many people in these last three months may make some contribution both to the shortening of the present war and to the prevention of wars in the future.
[Source: TNA FO 1031/49, transcribed by www.arcre.com]